Abandon all hope ye who enter here? Some thoughts on “The Way the Music Died.”

I watched last night’s broadcast of the Frontline program “The Way the Music Died” and over all it was well done although quite depressing. I had hoped that they would feature some interviews from people on the indie side of things more, but still overall I thought that it set out the issues affecting today’s music industry quite well. David Crosby had some nice dead on quotes including this one that I pinched from Slashdot where the usual debate is in full swing:

“David Crosby is a music legend known for his solo performances as well as his work with the Byrds, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. In this interview, he recounts how the music industry has changed over his career. “When it all started, record companies — and there were many of them, and this was a good thing — were run by people who loved records,” he says. “Now record companies are run by lawyers and accountants. … The people who run record companies now wouldn’t know a song if it flew up their nose and died.” Crosby also argues that the quality of music has suffered because of corporate interference. “It doesn’t matter that Britney Spears has nothing to say and is about as deep as a birdbath,” he says.”

Now for any real music fan, what they saw on the program (which will be streaming on the ‘Net starting May 29th) will be depressingly familiar but I hope not too discouraging. What the program aptly points out is that the way business is conducted by the major labels is collapsing, not the existence of good music per se. As we have highlighted here on The Rock and Roll Report alone there are literally thousands of ways that you can still get excellent music that has nothing to do with the struggling “hit making” machinery that is the music industry today. On top of that there all kinds of experiments going on, from Internet music label Magnatunes to the alternative copy write work of the Creative Commons that offer a glint of hope to all those musicians currently being ignored by the “big 5.”
The important thing for those of us that are music fans in 2004 is to make ourselves heard. How? Well first of all, support all those great yet struggling indie record labels, record stores and bands with your hard earned cash. Buy something! Stop leaching off the system by illegally downloading stuff off the ‘Net. Trust me there is plenty of ways to legally download stuff for free that you wont have to bother with the likes of Kazaa and you can get a taste of all that is good (or not so good) out there. Most of the record labels that have been featured on The Rock and Roll Report feature tons of free downloads so that you can get a good feel for what they offer. Download them, listen to them and then buy something. Simple.
Also, just because the major labels have evolved into the loathsome creatures that they have, do not feel guilty if your favourite band is on a major label. As a matter of fact buy their CDs, especially if they are of the eclectic persuasion since that is about the only way you can show a major label that there are people out there that do care about music that doesn’t fit their rigid, formulaic cookie-cutter “product.”
Above all, people have to get off their ass and go see real musicians playing live. I am talking about musicians that write their own stuff, play their own instruments and basically put it all on the line every night on a stage somewhere just for the love of creating music. Support them with your applause, your feedback and your money. Give as much to them as they give back to you. Musicians feed off the crowd so feed them. Show them that there are still people out there that care about music and no matter what crap the majors keep trying to foist on us, we will still be there listening to real music long after they have slid into financial ruin. You can’t keep a good sound down and it is up to all of us to prove it. Music, all music is a wondrous, joyful thing. Just because it is often being twisted and destroyed doesn’t mean that there is not plenty of great and worthwhile music waiting just around the corner. Search it out, explore, listen to it and support it. It is all part of the fun, and frustration, of being a music fan in 2004.

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